Archives For Author’s Journey

I have been published in Oxygen Magazine Australia providing a very honest and open account of what can go wrong with Body Building competitions. With the growing interest to compete in fitness modelling and body building I felt the need to share what I have experienced. I am by no means trying to deter anybody from competing, but rather I present challenges that are common, and some which presented themselves to me. I provide some advice on how to avoid some of these issues, and hope to help some who may be competing or considering competing for the first time.

Here you can see a sneak peek of the article.

To subscribe to the magazine, go to the Oxygen Magazine Australia website HERE or to follow their updates, check out their Facebook page HERE

 

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“I need to find myself” – a very commonly used phrase for when people go off soul-searching. I believe that this is a very important thing to do, but I don’t necessarily agree with the need to stop your entire life and disappear off into the sunset. By all means, if that’s what you feel like doing, then knock yourself out, but what if you are feeling a little bit hollow but are not in a position to drop everything and go? It is not always a realistic option to stop day-to-day life in its tracks without there being serious repercussions.

Very often this can lead to a situation of feeling trapped – you need something to change but you are locked into responsibilities left, right and centre. I have often found myself in this situation, and the truth is that you don’t even need to be unhappy with your life in order to experience this. I love what I do and this year has been the most exciting in my life, where I am finally able to more than ever do what I love, and I am so grateful for this. However it is also the year where I have needed to work harder than ever before with no days off, sometimes for weeks on end, without a single day off to myself.

No matter how passionate you are about what you do and how much praise you receive for all of your achievements, work is not everything. For the last 5 months work has been my everything, and while I knew that this was necessary to do everything that I wanted to do in the time-frame that I wanted, in the last few weeks  I was starting to feel an overwhelming sensation that I was losing touch with my true self.

This is why I have not posted for a few weeks. In a moment where you realise that you need to reconnect with yourself, the most important thing you can do is give yourself time, just like you would with any other relationship. Most people forget that we actually need to have a relationship with ourselves. We need to spend time listening to our needs, treat ourselves to things that we love and allow ourselves to be heard. Communication, trust, respect and many of the other central values that must be upheld in order to make a relationship successful with another person are equally important to uphold with yourself, yet this is where so many of us fail.

I had a whole bunch of achievements that I wanted to tick off, and they were being crossed off the list consistently, which brought me a lot of satisfaction, but there were days where I felt like an empty shell that could no longer switch off from work mode. I love writing and I love working with people and helping them achieve their goals. There was however no Me time happening, and that is where I was failing to take care of myself.

Now I could not take time off work – sometimes this is simply not an option, so if you find yourself in this situation I encourage you to simply give yourself a few weeks where you trim off everything that is optional in your life and only keep doing what is necessary. Do this for about 4-6 weeks and spend the time that opens up, even if it is only 5 minutes in a day, doing something that is all about you, and is not in any way oriented towards a specific goal – just something that you feel like doing.

For me that was music. I have always played, sung and loved listening to music for as long as I can remember; I have been making time recently to start playing the piano again and to just sit back and listen to music, and I feel like a totally new person. I unfortunately have lost my voice with the flu that is going around so am unable to sing, but absolutely intend to get back into that as well. The time that you give to yourself just to be you and to do what makes you happy, whether it be reading a book, getting pampered, going for a walk somewhere beautiful, meditating, or anything else that will replenish you, is essential at all times, but of particular importance to bring back when you are feeling drained and disconnected.

This trimming down of life to the bare minimum will create the space for growth, but of course must come with an expiry date. Without adopting this minimalist approach, you will just not find the time to be with yourself, but conversely, if you let this drag on without placing a limit on it then work and other commitments will begin to suffer. Be realistic about how long you can leave each commitment to its own devices and set specific timeframes so that you can be organised and don’t spend your newly found time worrying about the things you are not doing. Often when we are under pressure we can start to believe that everything is SO URGENT that is simply must have our attention at all points in time. Try staying off emails and away from the phone for a few hours and you will quickly learn that this is simply not the case.

We all need the time to reflect; we all need the time to decide what we want next ,but this will only happen when the chatter of the external world is allowed to stop for a moment and you are able to turn your attention inwards and simply spend some time being with yourself.

Once upon a time I ripped a hole in myself and underwent a horrible experience getting stitched back up. As part of the process I discovered that my body does not take well to general anaesthetic nor to morphine (fun!), and in the process I experienced months of unhappiness, issues managing my body fat, mood, and had not invested in such a wonderful support network as I have nowadays (you live and you learn). The end result was that I had some rubbish months recovering from that situation. Nowadays it’s just a scar, and every now and then the carbon fibre gauze in my left hand lower abdomen has the layers of tissue healed through it rip apart. For a few days thereafter, depending upon how big this is, any twisting motion results in the sensation of being stabbed.

While you may think that such an injury might not in any way relate to you, I would like to point out that my first hernia happened outside of a gym. I had in fact never set foot in a gym yet. I just had a weak core and pushed a table in the wrong way and BAM. That was is. Our cores keep us upright, stable and our insides on our insides properly. A weak core can lead to all manner of health issues from back pain through poor posture, through to similar injuries such as mine that can lead to the operating table.

My second hernia was a gym related incident, and I will admit that it was in a time when I had less awareness of safety and on the vulnerability of the body at all times when care is not taken to push to your limits and to question those limits, but to also always listen to that firm voice in your head that says “This is a stupid idea – you are not ready for this. You will hurt yourself”. I was much less experienced and was preparing for a power lifting competition (which I never got to do) and I was pushing too hard too fast. I had become physically capable of holding and moving around weights that my core was not strong enough to support. So I went for some ridiculous lifts on a day when I wasn’t feeling completely on top of my game and BAM – AGAIN!

Needless to say, my second hernia left me pretty unwilling to revisit the operating table. Luckily, I had an option. While I was told that I probably would need surgery, it was a direct inguinal hernia that came from a spot of weakness in the core. It was a long shot, but with adequate rest, rehab and gradual and sensible introduction of exercise and core strengthening I might not need surgery. Here is where I discovered body-weight training and my beloved rings. Here is also where I discovered GMB Fitness, who make some really nifty plans for people who are keen to learn about gymnastic training but making it accessible to people who may not have a gymnastics background.

So I learned a lot from them, and you can read a bit more about the experience of my recovery from my injury HERE. Nowadays I am once again able to lift heavy and never needed surgery, but I train my core religiously and more than anything else, have learned to listen to that little voice that talks sense to me when I’m tempted to do something silly.

Enjoy and I hope that you find this helpful.

When was the last time that you challenged yourself?

A challenge can be taken on in any area of your life including an area that is not a part of your usual routine. It can be trying something new for the first time, or pushing to the next level in something that you already do. I believe that challenges are not only healthy, but an absolute necessity for anybody to lead a fulfilling life.

We all have a routine – some weeks might have a unique social event or be busier at work or have other minor fluctuations, but generally, we have a pretty good idea of what every week is going to be like. If you never push beyond this then that is what will always continue to happen. We may slowly increase our skills in the things that we do all of the time, such as our jobs, but this is a gradual and predictable process. This means that without a challenge, you can pretty much predict what your life is going to be like 6 months from now, even 12 months and further down the track.

While a certain level of stability is desirable in order to be able to know that we will have roofs over our heads, and enough money to survive and prosper, complete predictability and monotony can lead to boredom and in some cases even depression. We are creatures that seek meaning in our lives, and this is something that we are responsible for the creation of. Novelty is exciting, and mastery is incredibly rewarding, but it is not an easy process.

 

Challenge Rule 1: It should feel like crap.

The name “challenge” implies that it should be a struggle. If it is not a stretch for you to achieve it, then it is not a challenge, it’s just an activity. For example, rock climbing is an activity, but for me it is a challenge every time because I am TERRIFIED of heights. I get more out of it than somebody who is not afraid of heights because AS WELL AS obtaining the training benefits of carrying out the activity as well as the social element of rock climbing and the fun of figuring out and completing climbs, I am constantly battling with my mind to overcome a fear and to be able to function in that fearful state every time my feet leave the ground.

So why is that uncomfortable state the end goal? Well if we only ever did what we are comfortable with, we would never get very far. Once upon a time when you were a child it was a challenge to learn to read. Had you never overcome that challenge, well you definitely wouldn’t be where you are. Obtaining the ability to walk, literacy, cooking, driving and other common activities that so many of us make use of constantly were originally challenges. Completing challenges broadens our skill set and improves upon the skills that we already have. This leads to new hobbies, new jobs, new friendships, and new possibility. But the struggle must come first.

 

Challenge Rule 2: You may need to put some other things you want on hold.

No one can do everything all at once, and if you are thinking of taking on a challenge that is going to push you beyond your usual limits then it is an unrealistic expectation to think that you will still be able to make all of the other commitments that you usually do. You may have less time, and you will definitely have less energy. Challenges drain you mentally and emotionally. Again, if they’re not a struggle then you will not grow. If you take something on and then still want to keep up all of your other extracurricular and social commitments then chances are that you will burn out, especially if you are attempting a challenge that takes a few weeks to complete.

So here I’m going to share with you what I have been working on, and why. I am a few hours away from completing the T Nation 10000 Kettlebell Swing Challenge. I have two reasons for this – one, is that I will be running a seminar at my gym in a few weeks’ time on challenging yourself and personal growth (which will extend on what is covered here) so I wanted to push myself to be in the right headspace for talking about this. Secondly, it had been a while since I had pushed and done something that I believed I might not be capable of completing. I still haven’t done it, but in a few hours from now it will be done. I’ll definitely be announcing it to the whole world on HERE the moment it’s done and can honestly say it has been a rough ride.

 

Challenge Rule 3: Even physical challenges are mostly mental training.

So my challenge is a physical one, but only on the surface. Yes it happens in the gym and yes I am completing a certain amount of repetitions of an exercise, but I am also battling my mind every day for the duration. The first week was DOMS week – that’s delayed onset muscle soreness for anybody who might not be familiar with the acronym. I was sore CONSTANTLY for nine days, and I had to train through that entire time. After that it eased off as my body became more accustomed to the high repetitions in the workouts (500 repetitions per workout, 5 workouts a week, 4 weeks). Then there was a week where it actually did not feel too bad, so I was merrily plodding along, ticking off a few thousand more repetitions, but knowing what was coming.

Eventually the enormity of the task caught up with my body and everything started to fall apart a bit. First my grip started to go in workouts. Then I started to get anxious in the lead-up to workouts, and then the tears started. Every workout has been incredibly difficult, don’t get me wrong. I sweat like crazy, my heart races and getting through the repetitions aches like crazy, but I have a lot of experience with difficult and high intensity training. The real problem started when the psychological fatigue started to kick in.

Eventually the daily onslaught became harder to cope with and I would suddenly find that I was in tears mid workout. Nothing is wrong emotionally in my life, I’m not injured or in more pain than I was a few weeks before – in fact I’m probably in less because my body has adapted. I am just exhausted and really ready for the end of this. So why have I pushed on? Because of the mental training that has been necessary to get me through.

Whenever we challenge ourselves and it is something truly difficult we do think about giving up, and this is normal. Resilience and having the ability to not give up is just a skill though, and therefore improves with practice; the more that you become used to not giving up when you want to, then the better that you will become at just pushing on. I didn’t need to complete this challenge, but I have now become more prepared for when I am next met with a challenge in my life.

 

At this point I would like to invite you to get connected up with my social media (look to the right) to stay up to date with the information on my upcoming seminar. If you are Sydney based then please organise to attend the seminar, which is scheduled for Monday June 23rd at 6pm. This will be free for all Fitness First members, and will be free after entry to all non-members.

“Do one thing today that frightens you” – there is a lot to this saying. While many of us might be getting a little tired of the constant overuse of inspirational quotes, THIS IS A GOOD ONE! We all have the capacity for personal growth when we are stretched and forced to work through a struggling situation. If you do not do anything new to challenge yourself then you cannot expect to grow as a person.

A common cause of unhappiness in the lives of many people is derived from an inability to find meaning in life. The truth is that meaning and sense of purpose is not some mysterious little bubble floating around waiting to crash into you – it is your responsibility to create your meaning and purpose for living, otherwise you are just existing. Mere existence results in stagnation and boredom, and it is in your hands to prevent this from occurring.

You may have experienced a moment when you achieve something that you had previously believed to be impossible and completely out of your grasp. This opens a door of endless opportunity, and this is why I like to incorporate challenges into my own and my clients’ training from time to time. You see, it’s not about the training itself, but rather about experiencing the sense of achievement and the empowerment that is unlocked through the completion of the challenge.

When something you believe to be impossible becomes reality then this brings other “impossibilities” in your life under the microscope – might they also be within your grasp? You may begin to question what else is not truly out of your reach. You may be more motivated to begin another project or challenge that you might not have otherwise attempted.

I wanted to communicate this right now because I have just embarked on a pretty intense physical challenge – the T Nation 10000 Kettle-bell Swing challenge. You can keep up to date with how I’m doing with this across any of my social media (links all to the right). I don’t remember the last time when I tried to talk myself out of going to the gym, but I was in that space on Tuesday. Monday’s workout had tears from the burn. I’m finally getting into the groove of it, but I’m only 1500 swings in. I will hit that next wall at any moment, and want to share my thoughts and learned lessons through the experience.

I am also very excited to announce that I just yesterday pitched an idea and have received the thumbs up for running a seminar here at Bondi Fitness First on growth through challenging yourself. I am aiming to run this around mid to late June, and will be running it together with a challenge immediately to follow. Both will be free, and the challenge will not be mandatory to everyone attending the seminar, but you will get the most out of this if you do participate. Make sure that you keep an eye out in the coming weeks and please flag with me in the meantime if you would be interested in attending, as we are going to start looking at locking in a date based on initial interest very soon.

nuedfood.com is a wonderful website created by my friend Lysi, who is an excellent nutritionist. Here you can find many recipes, products, as well as nutrition consultations. Lysi also has a blog on this site, and the other day featured me in her first interview. Go check it out HERE

For the Art of it

April 1, 2014 — Leave a comment

Why is the statue of David one of the most iconic sculptures of all time? The symmetry, the proportions and all of the detail throughout sets it apart as a monument of beauty and highest art. I was having a chat with my coach on the weekend, and it was wonderfully rewarding to realise that this is the ultimate motivation behind my competing – art. I am a creative by nature, and this is just another form of expression, and one that also can lead to other art through improved movement.

Sometimes we push ahead with goals and don’t spend too much time really getting to the bottom of the compelling why. Many of my friends had brought this up before – I’m not particularly attached to my figure. I have had many different ones over the years, and have quite enjoyed every phase of it. It’s kind of the ability to be a chameleon that I have enjoyed the most at times in fact. But I find the process of creating a sculpted body incredibly rewarding, but not for the reason that many would expect.

I have a wicked back – I’m ok with saying that because I’m yet to meet somebody who will object to that statement. Similarly, the condition of my legs and butt are nowhere near the same league, and no I’m not digging for compliments, I am simply being frank because when you get up on stage to be assessed from head to toe, you need to be honest with yourself about where you really are at in every single part of your body. I am a normal woman and I have struggled with fat deposits and cellulite on those areas FOREVER.

A quick aside: I believe in being honest, because there is very little benefit you as a reader can get if you cannot relate to me. There is already enough “watch me be awesome on the Internet while you sit at home hating on your body because you can’t achieve this” floating around the Internet. Guess what – chances are that you are not getting the full story, so don’t go body-shaming on yourself. I am normal and real, and I understand how hard it can be sometimes to look at parts of you and not love them so much, but I also understand ways that you can overcome this, not only through physical improvement, but most importantly through cultivating self-love, but I digress…

You can imagine then how rewarding it is to see these areas transform, not to be their possible best yet – far from, and there’s always room for improvement – but the progress has been ENORMOUS in the last few months. To feel each new line appear in the same way as finding a musical ornament that creates an arresting moment, in the same way as sketching a detail that makes the eye pause with momentary wonder. All of this is so much more rewarding – and healthier for your mind – than craving abs/butt/etc. Happiness is not in the having a great body. Happiness is in the life that you choose to lead, and prioritising health of the mind and the body, and the light and free feeling that follows opens endless possibilities. You will be full of energy and crave what nurtures you, and goals that previously felt impossible go into progress.

 

I am currently 18 days away from setting foot on the stage for my next competition as a fitness model. Whenever a competition approaches, I am always asked many questions, and one that always comes up is whether bodybuilding is a healthy sport, to which I always ask “which sport are you comparing it to?”. I think that often people forget that while fitness is an element of health, fitness and health are not the same thing, so to be in the peak fitness is not always going to equate to being at the peak of health, but similarly, to do something that could be unhealthy if sustained for a prolonged period of time does not necessarily mean that it is unhealthy to achieve for a day competing in a sport.
I think that many people have a very vague definition of health, (I will be writing more about this in coming weeks). Health includes how you eat and whether, and how much, and how you keep active. It also includes whether you sleep enough, the quality of your sleep, your psychological well-being (which is quite complex alone), your gut health and so on and so forth. As you can see, health is quite complex. Fitness is only one of the elements of health, and even fitness contains many modalities within itself (which again I want to write about more in future posts).
Bodybuilding is currently receiving a lot of attention through the ‘fitsporation’ phenomenon running rampant through social media (which I have opinions about, but not for right now) with a larger than usual proportion of people wanting to have abs at any cost. It is the “at any cost” that I would like to point out here. For my sport, and for any sport, there are many ways to achieve results. Some people will choose more wisely for their health and others less so. I think that one of the reasons why bodybuilding is getting frowned at a lot lately is because of this whole fitsporation issue. Many people who are not athletes now aspire to look a certain way, and some make less than wise decisions to obtain results quickly, such as aggressive crash diets, which can have some pretty serious health implications.
Yes I diet hard in the lead-up to a show, and yes I push my body to its absolute limit every time that I train. However I also supplement my body and have a whole range of recovery techniques to ensure that my health is not suffering. I am an athlete – I am not supposed to have a normal life nor treat my body in the same way that most other people treat theirs. Similarly, people who are not nor do not intend to be athletes should not attempt some of the things that I do to myself, because they have not developed the work capacity, likely to do not fuel their body adequately, may not have the same muscular or ligament strength etc. etc.
Does this make bodybuilding unhealthy by definition? No it does not, but it does mean that it is not for everyone – specifically it is not for anyone who is not willing to put in the work over time to obtain the results. Is reaching the peak for stage intense? Absolutely. Would keeping that peak have serious health issues? Yes it would, but that’s why you’re not supposed to do that. If you can maintain your peak and not suffer for it, then you probably didn’t peak hard enough. That is the point of sport – to push to your absolute limit. This is not unique to bodybuilding – pro cyclists reach such an extreme level of cardiovascular fitness for their competitions that their heart rate is so slow that it would stop beating if they were to attempt to maintain their peak for prolonged periods of time. MMA fighters, power lifters and many other athletes diet and dehydrate to meet certain weight divisions in their spots, which can also be unhealthy if not done appropriately.
What would be the point of athletes if we did not actually do anything unusual? What we do is not supposed to be achievable to the average individual unless they make some pretty big changes, and that is why the word athlete exists.